President Muhammadu Buhari is the leader of the world’s most populous black nation. Born in Daura, Katsina state, Buhari first ruled Nigeria as a military head of state back in 1983. Just like one of his predecessor former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he was democratically elected as president in 2015 and also won another term in February 2019.
The president who describes himself as a “converted democrat” gave many Nigerians hope with the “change” mantra of his 2015 presidential campaign when he threw his hat into the ring to contest after three unsuccessful attempts. The people had longed dreamt of a country to be proud of and a leader that would always be for the masses.
However, after his arrival as a democratic leader many people are now wondering if electing him wasn’t a mistake considering his past records as a military ruler, while some are of the opinion that the president rules the nation as a dictator.
On December 11, PUNCH in an editorial entitled, “Buhari’s lawlessness: Our stand,” announced its decision to prefix Buhari’s name with his former military rank Major General. The newspaper in addition to the title prefix said it would refer to President Buhari’s administration as a “regime”. The media publication took a stand to start using the military rank of the president in reaction to Buhari’s dictatorial tendencies.
Though it has been argued in some quarters that PUNCH’s action may not be effective in any way, it however, sends a very clear message about President Buhari’s government to the rest of the world.
The ill-treatment of ex National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki, outspoken Muslim leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore, has sparked outrage within and outside Nigeria. The incidents surrounding their various arrests, detention, and abuse of rights has put the nation’s leader on the spot.
According to an Amnesty report which was launched in October 2019, between January and September this year not less than 19 Nigerian journalists and media practitioners have been attacked in the country. The report also said that 6 journalists were arrested in 2018, while 4 were arrested in 2017.
In 2015, 5 journalists were apprehended while 16 journalists were arrested in 2016. Since 2015, 8 media houses have been raided and 3 journalists have gone into hiding, the report added.
A professor of Mass Communication, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Des Wilson, was quoted to have said that there is no difference between Buhari as a military dictator and civilian president. According to him the hate speech bill sponsored by an APC senator is no different from the Decree No. 4 of 1984 which was promulgated by the military regime of Buhari.
Despite all of this, Buhari’s loyalists are always ready with some sort of justification in expectation of any action taken against a citizen. Even when these actions are criticised, defenders of the president always attempt to exonerate the Nigerian leader and blame an agency or someone else for the actions.
Even though Buhari probably may not be listening to contrary opinions, there is a combined effort by Nigerians to let him know that he has no right to do whatever he wants even as the democratic leader of the country.
Nevertheless, the president is praised for any positive action taken by his subordinates even though he seems not to be aware of the negative actions they take, so we want to know are you for the people? Despite Nigeria alternating between democratic governments and military dictatorships until achieving a stable democracy in 1999, it is doubtful the people want to ever have a dictator as a leader in a democratic setting.